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SPOTLIGHT ON THE DOURO RIVER VALLEY
Douro River cruises have become a very popular cruise and destination choice.


 

A little introduction to the delights of the Douro River and the Douro River Valley.
What you may remember about Portugal, or more likely the wines of Portugal, will probably take you back to your college days of drinking a bottle of Mateus Rosé wine and then placing a candle in the bottle to form a drip candle. What you probably didn't know: at that time, Portugal’s Douro Valley was the world’s first officially designated wine region. No; not France. Not Germany. Not even the Napa Valley. The Douro was the first!

While the many varieties of ports and fine wines are important, the valley actually draws more tourists for its postcard-perfect landscapes and spellbinding natural beauty. Much of the Valley consists of steep terraced vineyards carved into the mountain sides and majestic whitewashed wine estates (called quintas — pronounced: "keen-tahs") that dot the granite hillsides along the river, not to mention the delightful small towns and villages that spring up alongside the Douro. We actually feel the landscapes to be even more beautiful than those of the Moselle.

For perhaps many of us, another misconception about Portugal is that we think Britannia ruled the seas during the "Golden Age of Exploration" but, in fact, the dominant player was Portugal — a small, relatively unknown country scrunched up along Spain's western border and facing the Atlantic. During the late 1400’s and 1500’s, Portugal is the country that ruled the seas! Don't worry! We're not going to bore you with a long history lesson, but we do feel it is important to update everyone with a little understanding of where – in the past, and in the present – Portugal stands in the history of the world. To find out more about the intriguing history of the Douro River, the valley, and Portugal... please keep reading...

Let's start with some of the more
renowned Portuguese explorers.

We’ll start with the fact that Portugal actually refused to finance Columbus as did both England and France (bad moves). Chris was then embraced and funded by the Queen of Spain, before heading off to discover the new world in 1492. Then, we have Vasco de Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral who discovered Brazil, and probably the least known, but most important Portuguese navigator, Magellan, who started off to circumnavigate the world in 1519 and almost made it before dying. Just our way of pointing out how important Portugal WAS in our world history. Today, however, all we usually think about is their famous port wines and possiblly those remarkable fresh grilled sardines you can buy from local street vendors.


So, why is the Douro so popular and in such high-demand?
What make the Douro the hottest destination for river cruises, and one of Travel & Leisure Magazines best places to visit? Well, the short story is... The Douro begins in Spain (where it is called the Duero River) and winds its way over 700 kilometers (just a bit under 500 miles) through majestic, steep, craggy granite mountainsides to the city of Porto, Portugal where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The river is navigable for 200 kilometers (125 miles) between the Spanish border and Porto. It is this part of the Douro River that is the most unspoiled river valley on the entire European Continent; so much so that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (There are actually 7 UNESCO sites in total on the river!)

It is that 125 miles of absolutely unspoiled charm and incredible beauty that has made the Douro River a must-do destination on any river cruiser's bucket list.

Tantalized? Let me describe to you just a few details about the fascinating itinerary you're sure to become enthralled by on any Douro River cruise...

Your cruise begins in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, known as the “City of Bridges” for the many spans over the Douro river that connect Porto with its sister city of Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto is a vibrant town that still has many of its Moorish revival-style buildings including one of the world’s earliest stock exchanges. Small streets and narrow passageways lined with cute cafés and inexpensive boutiques abound in Porto. It’s incredibly easy to walk and enjoy; for a great view, plan a climb up the 249 steps of the Clerigos Tower to gain the perfect photo of Porto.

PHOTO HINT. While in Porto, make sure you’re out and about near sunset. At this time of day you will enjoy one of the most incredible, bombastic arrays of color you may ever enjoy as the setting sun cast the last rays of daylight on all the many brightly colored homes along the river. This truly is one of the most delightful photo ops you will ever experience – could be even better than the canal shots in Amsterdam at sunset.

Across the river is Vila Nova de Gaia, best known as the commercial heart of the wine district and the many wine merchants. Here, you'll find the cellars and tasting rooms of all the major Port Wine Estates and maybe even taste a port dating back hundreds of years. You need not worry too much about tasting them here, as you’ll have plenty of wonderful tasting opportunities as you enjoy each day of your Douro cruise.

And, don’t for a moment think that a cruise along the Douro River is just for wine lovers as it is not! It is the perfect cruise for wine and food lovers and lovers of all things beautiful.
The Douro appeals to travelers who want to experience something less crowded and far, far different than a traditional European river cruise. It combines the best of cruising, relaxation, fun sightseeing, wonderful ships, new friends, infectious natural beauty and, of course, great food and wines.

Depending on the itinerary, your day may begin with an excursion to one of the delightful, small and charming towns along the Douro, or with a visit to one of the local yet world famous quintas where you can enjoy a glass of red or white port. On other days you’ll spend time either in the morning or evening cruising silently through this unspoiled region taking in the sights, sounds, and aromatic smells of the extensive vineyards that line the steep valley terrain all while enjoying a glass of the regional wine. During your cruise, there will be an entire day devoted to visiting another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the “Golden City” of Salamanca located just across the border in Spain. Dubbed the “Golden City" for its glowing sandstone buildings (Which again, creates a marvelous photo op!), you’ll leave Salamanca saying it was one of the most interesting and beautiful spots you have ever visited.

Don't forget Lisbon!
Before we tell you about all the premium river cruise lines that sail the Douro and itinerary options, we have to mention a little bit about the vibrant capital of Portugal... Lisbon! When you plan your Douro trip, you MUST make sure to add time in this spectcular capital city. Most cruise lines offer a 3-night stay in this fun-packed, safe and affordable city. There's plenty of touring to enjoy (FYI — when you book with Premier, we’ll tell you about two of the lesser known day trips that are a must, up to our favorite two walled cities that lie just north of Lisbon. And, we’ll also provide you with a few of our “fav” local restaurants for your enjoyment.)

Portugal enjoys a very temperate climate.
One last little bit of info about Portugal and the Douro River Valley as a whole... in general, the climate is very much like mid-California — never too hot (80s-to-mid-90s in August) and never too cool, low-to-mid 70s in spring and fall.


A short list of our favorite Douro, Lisbon and Spain attractions.

 JUST A FEW TOP, MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS 
 Porto and Douro River Valley
Porto's Palacio da Bolsa
Regua's Douro Museum
Village of Provesande near Pinhao
Figueria de castel Rodriguo in Regua
 Lisbon, Portugal
Sintra Palace
Palacio de Mateus (of Rosé wine fame)
Belem Tower
San Jeronimo's Church and Monastery
 In Spain
"Golden City" of Salamanca

 


 

What river cruise lines sail the Douro?
All of the major lines — AmaWaterways, Emerald, Viking, Uniworld, and Scenic offer a full range of 7 to 10 night cruises with Scenic and Uniworld offering more leisurely 10 night itineraries. Douro prices are a bit higher than for the Rhine and Danube cruises due to the Douro's high demand and far fewer river boats. Even with slightly higher rates, early booking (fall 2018) prices start as low as $2250 per person on all-inclusive, Emerald Waterways. THAT is a steal of a deal for this jewel!

What's even more of a steal of a deal? Mention the Inside Scoop and enjoy pre-paid tips OR save up to an additional $200 per person on any 2018 Douro River Cruise booked by May 31, 2017. And remember... when you book your Douro cruise with Premier, you'll not only get your own, personalized edition of CompassPoints, but also our exclusive "Premier Thoughts" on the Douro Valley which outlines or favorite sights along the river; what to do while in Lisbon; and the names and locations of a few of our favorite local restaurants. 

As you can read from this too brief introduction, a cruise through the Douro Valley really does have it all. Due to its immense popularity and fewer, slightly smaller river ships, you MUST BOOK really far out in time. Why? Cruises for 2017 are basically sold out already! That tells you that NOW is the time to talk to one of our Premier river cruise experts to plan your Douro trip before it is too late. Why not check out a few of the itineraries from the following river cruise lines...

Start planning your Douro river cruise vacation.
No matter which itinerary you select, we know that every Douro river cruise will open up a new vacation destination filled with enjoyment, contentment, and ever-lasting memories. The entire Premier Team knows the Douro River, the Valley and Lisbon very well and we look forward to helping you find and plan the perfect cruise that fits all of your wishes, desires, and needs. If you have any questions or are ready to book, please give us a call at 1-855-255-1200, or drop us an email at info@premierrivercruises.com.

(PS — Want to know more about the Douro River, CLICK HERE to read more AND find all of the 2017-2018 Douro cruises!)


 

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